Crime and Politics: Political Candidates with Criminal Background - Editorial
Photo by Abhishek Choudhary / Unsplash

Crime and Politics: Political Candidates with Criminal Background - Editorial

Approximately 30% of the Lok Sabha MPS of the Indian parliament have registered criminal offenses against them.

· 4 min read

Crime and Politics in India: Background Context

The Apex Court has taken a bold decision by agreeing to listen to a valuable consent and plea from the Election Commission of India (ECI) to administer political parties in India to not field candidates with criminal records in past.

The immediate notable goading came after the ECI finding that almost more than 46% of MPs have past criminal records with serious offences.

The Indian tricolour flag waving in the wind at the Wagah border near Amritsar in Punjab, India.
Photo by Naveed Ahmed / Unsplash

While the number might sound swollen as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences, mostly considered to be political offences “unlawful assembly” and “defamation cases”, the real concern here is that the current squadron of Lok Sabha Member of Parliament has the Highest (29%) portion of those criminal MPs with detailed criminal offences compared to its recent predecessors.

  • Approximately 30% of the Lok Sabha MPS of the Indian parliament have registered criminal offences against them.
  • This report was compiled by the National Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reform (ADR) based on the affirmation filed by political candidates during elections since the year 2004.
  • According to the assessment, it was found that any political candidate with a clean slate without any criminal record has the least possible chance of getting elected (approximately 12%). On the other hand, the candidates with a criminal background or series of criminal offences against them have better chances of getting successfully elected (approximately 23%).
  • The report established that around 162 (30%) of the total 543 existing MPs of the lower house (Lok Sabha) have “criminal offence cases” registered against them and 76 (14%) have “serious criminal offence cases” registered against them.
Around 40 (17%) of the 232 MPs of the Rajya House (upper house) have “criminal offence cases” registered against them and 16 others (7%) have “serious criminal offence cases” registered against them.
  • A stand-alone and independent agency assessed 62,847 candidates who were sheltered by at least one political party and stood for elections since 2004, and around 4,181 stood in an election more than once and more than one election.
  • Out of these 4,181 candidates who contested more than one election, 1,072 had a criminal offence the first time they stood for election and around 788 had criminal offences the second time they stood for election.
  • This boils down to the fact that political parties favour, giving tickets and field candidates (74% candidates) with a criminal background and registered criminal records a second time, in spite of knowledge of the criminal background and cases.
  • India’s Apex Court ruled earlier and mentioned it very clear that those MPs elected and serving in the office would be disqualified immediately if found being convicted of a criminal offence. However, this situation was different earlier, convicted MPs and ministers were allowed to serve the office while their appeals were in court for the hearing.

Supreme Court Ruling with the context to Criminal Records in Politics

The Apex court has put forward a series of critical judgement on addressing these issues

  • Apex Court discarded and eliminated the Legal protection of convicted MPs from immediate disqualification in 2013, and in 2014, commanded the finalization of trials involving elected members of Parliament within 12 months (a year) of the time period.
  • In 2017, Apex Court directed the Centre to devise a scheme to establish special courts to exclusively try cases against politicians on the fast track, and directed political parties to report and announce pending criminal offence cases faced by their potential candidates in the year 2018.
  • But these moves were not to discourage the elected MPs with the doubtful credentials.
  • Possibly what would do the trick is a rule that refuses candidates against whom charges have been framed in court for serious criminal offences, but this is something for the Indian Parliament to consider as an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • This culmination or curtailment, however, is still a daydream, given the composition of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) with a notable number of political representatives (Members of Parliament) facing serious criminal offences and cases.
  • Lastly, this is the outcome of the structural issue in Indian democracy and the situation of the Indian states.

Prism view by Voters

Political researchers and analysts have found that many candidates with a series of criminal offences registered against them still manage to get elected in parliamentary and assembly elections despite them not being welcomed by voters, largely due to their ability to influence voters through monetary offerings and finance their own election and bring resources to their respective political party.

Such candidates are being viewed through a narrow prism: Geared to represent their interest by any means (Good or Bad).

With a given number of choices, voters don’t have much choice as the opposite candidates contesting elections against these convicts also have similar backgrounds.

Either way, this ill-structured political structure showcases the long ailment that is stuck to the Indian democratic system and reflects the scenario of Indian state institutions and the establishment and quality of MP’s being elected.

Clean the slate of Political parties: Need of the hour

Judgement and assessment strongly advocate the parliament to introduce the “Powerful Law” to clean the slate of all the political parties, MPs facing trial for a series of serious criminal offences.

The Five-Judge Bench ruled guided and administered by then Chief Justice of India, concluded that immediate illegalization or prohibition of politics cannot be apprehended by merely disallowing the MPs, instead should come by “Cleansing the political parties”.

Respected Apex Court had proposed the Indian Parliament to frame the “Concrete Law” that prohibits the makes it compulsory for political parties to stop entertaining the leaders with serious criminal charges, and turn down their open of getting the election ticket in both the houses. The nation is waiting for such massive reforms for ages.

It also provided the directions and instructions, that inclusive political parties and candidates should announce the criminal background of the latter in widely-circulated national newspapers.

Conclusion

Electoral reforms and amendments are the regular initiatives to address the gaps and strengthen the electoral processes. This is important because of the situation of politics in India. These reforms help India maintain the shape of being the world's largest democratic republic, not just to showcase but as mentioned in the preamble and constitution of India.

Reforms alone won’t work until increased awareness, education and democratic participation and the right groundwork are created for the lawful legitimization of politics.

Choice and Willingness: About Crime and Politics